Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Him and Her and Me (and Us)

March 29/30, 2006

This week I was booked for work on a Disney TV production called "Him and Us," a concert scene shooting over at the Staples Center. Concerts and sporting events are often irritating, because although they book hundreds of us and we're crammed in tight together with no room to breathe, there's never enough of us to fill a stadium, and we invariably have to move from section to section to make it look like a packed house. I know some extras who refuse to go to gigs of more than a hundred people.

One thing I ain't gonna miss too much about living in Los Angeles is that it doesn't rain for three months, and when it does, it pours down. They call it torrential rain, and it fills the streets and crashes down mud and million dollar homes. Well, due to some of this typically torrential rain, they moved locations on us, and made us drive to Disney in Burbank.

I'd never been to the Disney studios before, and enjoyed seeing murals and displays of the classic characters in windows and on the sides of buildings. Our holding was in a big stage next to the one where they had (hurriedly) built the concert venue. Cooly, an underwater set and the interior of the Black Pearl set from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3 were housed in our holding stage. I wonder what becomes of those sets once the shoots are done.

Elton John is the producer of "Him and Us," though he wasn't there, as far as we knew. 97% of the jobs that we get, we are instructed to bring a certain kind of wardrobe, and 75% of jobs, we are supposed to bring more than one option for the wardrobe people to choose from. In this case, though, we never had to go through Wardrobe, and got to wear what we wanted. I saw John the Ladykiller--or rather, he saw me, coming over as I started to read my book. He chided me for always shuffling off by myself to read (or hide, as he called it), and told me my antisocial ways were one of the reasons no woman liked me. Also, apparently my clothes, shoes, and haircut are what my Irish friend would refer to as shite.

Also on hand was the small, attractive lass we hung out with on "The 12th Man" last week. She shot toward John like a Scud missile, but because I was by his side, we became instant friends. I found out her name was Tiffany, and once again drawn to her. Maybe it was her light Oklahoma accent, maybe it was her sense of humour, maybe it was her girl-next-door good looks, I don't rightly know.

John, hearing about my unfortunate need to give up this whole extra thing, told me not to leave, to be strong, and not to be a pussy. I don't think it's really about that, but his words did strike me pretty hard. He asked me what I moved to L.A. for and why I was giving up. He then said, "If you want to make movies, just do it. Mark and Jonathan and Bryan and LesbianJanet and Pogo and Klaatu and I will all be in them. We'll help you out." That also gave me pause. Even though PHANTOM MENACE was lame and the way Jake Lloyd delivered the line was even lamer, "the biggest problem in the universe is that no one helps each other" is a pretty big truth.

Well, after but a moment, we moved through the rain to the next stage, where we'd be watching the concert. We sat down where they told us, but John wanted to sit on the end for some reason (later, I would find out why). Somehow, due to this, Tiffany and I ended up sitting next to each other, and one of the A.D.s immediately pointed at her, wanting to take her away from it all. He paused, "You're not WITH anybody, are you?" Without thinking, I shot out my arm and put it around her. The A.D. shrugged and said, "Okay, you too." He marched us over to the section on the right, pretty close to the stage, and John followed. "Not you," the A.D. said, in a less-than-polite tone. Poor Ladykiller John had to head back to his seat in the middle.

I felt a bit sad about that, and later in the night, we got the row to scoot down one seat so John could rejoin us. Tiffany had this cute little way of talking, and referred to what we did for John as "ganking" him a seat. He joined us, but didn't enjoy himself so much, and snuck out to smoke cigarettes after every setup.

Once the concert started, it pretty much didn't end. The performer, Maxx Flash, was energetic, middle-aged, and very British. Tiffany laughed when she realised who it was: the man who played Giles in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." There were two songs performed, over and over and over. One song was fast and sounded like "The Bitch Is Back" (it was called "Without a Fight") and the other was slow, ending the concert, and sounded a bit like "Crocodile Rock." Our job was to stand up, cheer, and dance around. Because they played the tracks so many times, the girl and I actually did learn the choruses of the songs and creeped the people around us out by singing along with Maxx.

So, we broke for lunch not long after. It was what is called a Walkaway Lunch, which, as the name implies, means the extras are dismissed for an hour to find lunch where they can. Because we were on a studio lot, it was pouring rain, and was night, there weren't a lot of places we could walk to, so we went to the studio commissary. I thought John was with us, but he either stopped off to smoke or went back to get a jacket, because we didn't see him the whole hour. Tiffany and I (I really should come up with a nickname for her rather than using her real name, don't you think?) discovered a Panda Express there, and both loaded up on Chinese food, then found a table. After a while, the woman from DARK STREETS that called Bijou Phillips a bitch saw me and sat down next to us. A friend of hers joined us, so suddenly, it was me and three ladies at a table. Who's the Ladykiller now, Johnny?

Tiffany was excited because she got a gig on "American Idol" being the stand-in for that really hot blonde girl with the southern accent (my sister was living with me for a while and she made me watch it . . . SHE MADE ME!!!). That is pretty exciting, even for a non-fan like me.

We went back to holding and found John there, pouting or something. Tiffany assured him we hadn't ditched him, and that I had told her I saw him heading toward the commissary (turns out it was some other underwear model-looking guy).

Practically immediately, it was time to go back to set. They were going to get their money's worth on this one. I found a couple of seats right by the stage, and Tiffany sat with me. John didn't want to sit there, though, as it would make his duck-outs more difficult.

So, for ten hours, including lunch, I sat next to this girl. I thought it was . . . well, everything my life has not been. I was funny, she was cool and friendly, John kept ditching out to smoke cigarettes and not work. It was fun, even though people were tired and it was raining outside. We went until late. John got twitchy and headachy. She got sleepy and sullen. I got, I don't know what, grouchy maybe.

They gave us roses for the last number, which they'd then take away, distribute again, take away, then redistribute. I didn't really understand that. Why not just do the first song until they were done with it, then do the second? The only guess I had would be to keep it interesting for us, but that shouldn't be a factor--it never has before.

Tiffany and I got along really well (I thought so, anyway). We found out we both like Elton John songs and sang a couple together. Then she went to sleep while I sang "Your Song." She said nothing, but the girl in the row in front of me complimented me on the song. I felt good.

At one point, the thought occurred to me that literally ANYBODY else would have put the moves on this girl to some degree or another. An inner voice said, "At least put your arm around her, man." I battled with this inner voice, that often tells me to do way more than I am doing, driving me to distraction. But finally, I thought, "Look, your whole life, you never lean in to kiss the girl or take her hand or put your arm around her unless she instigates it, because you're afraid she'll react badly like ole what's-her-name did back in, what, the Cretaceous Period? If the worst that could happen is that she recoils in horror (like Jurassic What's-her-name), who cares? Chances are she won't do that, and if she does, you can always kill yourself." Encouraged by this inner voice, I did as he asked.

You gotta understand that to me, a successful night at the club is having a few laughs with friends and maybe TALKING TO, or, if I'm lucky, DANCING WITH a pretty girl. If John spent a weeknight (let alone a Friday evening) that way, he'd eat the barrel of a shotgun.

Toward the very end of the night, Kim Cattrell came onstage and did the Rock & Rock version of “The Actor’s Nightmare.” It was strange that the people around me did not know who she was. Tiffany told them she played Samantha on “Sex & the City.” I told them she was the MANNEQUIN. At one point, Cattrell sang the chorus to “Toucha-Toucha-Touch Me” from ROCKY HORROR. Found out that Tiffany and I sang the rest of the song together. If there was a match made in Heaven (for me, Hell for her), it would appear to be us.

At 12:45 or so, I went on John's smoke break with him. I don't smoke (perhaps the only thing I like less than someone yammering away on their cellphone), but he just seems to enjoy sneaking away so much that I had to join him at least once. The second we got out in the rain, John laid into me (or at least that's how I took it) for being a dick to him and a . . . I don't know what--to the girl. "Stop with the kissing jokes, will you? Jesus!" he said, where I thought I was the charmingest ever. "Why do you keep mentioning my girlfriend?" he asked, and except for once, when I asked him if she wanted to see V FOR VENDETTA with us tomorrow, I didn't think I had. He said I had brought her up about six times during the night. Well, it really pissed me off. I was surprised by the level of anger I felt, perhaps reacting to his words as negatively as possible. I glowered for a few minutes, really angry and he knew it, actually having to take a walk through the rain to clear my head. But John is only trying to help me. I guess. "Let them come to you," he said, though I'm leaving in a few days, and there's no chance for her to come to me.

If I've not mentioned it before John is rather smooth with the ladies. I've seen it time and time again, and this time, with Lil Tiffany, he kept touching her ear and she'd bat his hand away, then he'd do it again. He claimed her ear was an errogenous zone--whether just for her or for all women, I have no idea--and if she really had wanted him to stop, she would've made it clear. Not to slight someone I considered a friend, but I think I now understand why he didn't want me mentioning his girlfriend.

I went back inside, soaked and surly, and sat down next to Tiffany, who still slept (she had spread herself over the three seats I had reserved for us). To keep people happy (fat chance, though, extras are almost as complainy as . . . well, actors), the production had ordered about a hundred pizzas, and I had a couple of slices. John poked his head in for a moment, scooped up one or two that was left, then was gone again.

That was the swan song, though, for the production called it a night after the pizza was gone. The line to check out was massive, but somehow I got there ahead of most people and was back on the freeway before the last person checked out. Everything is subjective, I know, but I choose to remember the positive about my evening on "Him and Us." For me, this was a fun, enjoyable, and worthwhile night, even if I was angry for an hour of it and tired when I got home.

Rish Casanova Outfield

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